Tuesday, October 5, 2021

They Really Are Different From The Rest Of Us


Justin Trudeau has rightly earned severe criticism for his holiday in Tofino on National Truth and Reconciliation Day. However, in my view there is another very important story here as well, one that imparts a lesson we would all do well to bear in mind, especially in light of the new revelations made in the Pandora Papers.

My contention is a simple one. When you have friends in high places, when you associate and identify with them, you are likely to handle them with especially soft kid gloves and certainly be wary of offending them by tax measures that may capture a scintilla of their wealth.

What does any of this have to do with our prime minister? Justin Trudeau is of the financial elite, and those he considers friends breathe the same rarified air as he does. One remembers his ill-fated holiday on the private island of close family friend, the Agha Khan. Then there was his impassioned defence of his good friend and major fundraiser Edgar Bronfman over his unsavoury involvement in an offshore scheme. As well, although perhaps a minor example, consider where he stayed during his B.C. sojourn, an abode called Surfer's Paradise, which is currently on the market with an asking price of  $18,750,000. While I do not know what rental he paid for the house, it would likely be beyond the budget of most.

Does the fact that Trudeau can afford such an indulgence impugn his leadership? Of course not. But it is yet another reminder that the truly wealthy are different from the rest of  us, and that the filter of wealth is often an impediment to being in touch with the rest of us or seeing us on the same level of humanity as they are. In other words, empathy is compromised, one of the subjects Chelsea Fagan addresses in her video, 6 Secrets I Learned Working For Rich People, which I recommend you view as time permits. 

Accompanying the video are some very useful links to articles she cites in the video:

Articles on rich people and empathy can be accessed herehere, and here.

An article on rich people and philanthropy can be accessed here.

Now, it would clearly be an offence to the ideal of critical thinking to suggest that any of this directly indicts the sensibilities of Mr. Trudeau. But, as they say, actions (or in this case inactions) speak louder than words, something I shall return to in a moment.

I am thinking anew of the financial elites in light of the release of The Pandora Papers, a kind of successor to the Panama and Paradise Papers, all of which reveal the off-shore dodges the rich use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Those using these tax avoidance measures range from world leaders to prominent Canadians, and it is estimated that there is more than $14 trillion squirrelled away by the entitled.

Now, I am not suggesting for a moment that Mr. Trudeau or any of his family makes use of such havens. However, as I expressed in a series of posts in 2017, I am concerned that his identification and affiliation with the truly wealthy has prevented any meaningful reforms that would close the loopholes that allow for such selfish behaviour. Particularly damning is the fact that since the 2016 release of the Panama Papers, which showed the magnitude of off-shore tax-avoidance havens, not one Canadian has been charged, and it appears no money has been recovered.  This stands in sharp contrast to his campaign avowals in 2015 to close such loopholes. And in the 2021 campaign, he made similar promises which, even if some were to be enacted, would result in mere tinkering around the edges and would do nothing to advance lofty goals such as pharmacare and $10 a day childcare.

Mr. Trudeau is very well-known for talking a good game. His rhetoric even soars at times. But it is absolutely essential that Canadians demand more than words if we are ever to become the country that history shows us we are capable of becoming.

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